By Nina Miller, Mitzvah Corps Civil Rights Journey 2016 Participant
After being away in the South for the Mitzvah Corps Civil Rights Journey, it was hard to come back home. I live in an area of Massachusetts where it can be easy to be sheltered from the rest of the world. My town is predominantly filled with white people who are Jewish, which is part of the reason I decided to explore the South in the first place. At my temple, there are four rabbis and one them, Rabbi Soffer, had always wanted me to be part of a Mitzvah Corps program. With the summer before my senior year open, I decided to look at the different summer programs that Mitzvah Corps had. I picked the Civil Rights Journey, because I have always been interested in Civil Rights and wanted to learn more first-hand. What better way to do so than going to the South with other Jewish teens?
Traveling through the South was one of the most amazing experiences that I have ever had. I learned more about the Civil Rights Movement from the vast opportunities we were given over the course of the two weeks. I learned from the many speakers we heard from that the movement still going, and I learned what life is like growing up in the South from the many people that our group was able to meet with. Visiting different Southern synagogues and hearing how vastly different, particularly in size, congregations there are was really interesting to me because it is so different from what I see at home.
I was able to take something new away from every single person that we heard from on the trip. It may have been a story or just one little detail about someone’s life, but to me, that small detail was not insignificant; each detail of one’s story is an important fact to whom they are. And every detail that I took away from the trip, I plan to remember. These memories will propel me toward helping society in the future, and I plan on keeping their stories alive. And it wasn’t just the speakers who made an impact on me; the other teens on the trip were some of the most amazing people, people who I never would have met otherwise. One thing I know for sure is that the great friends I made on the trip helped make it such an amazing experience.
Now that I am back home, I am planning on telling everyone I know about my experiences in the South with Mitzvah Corps, from the places we went to to just making memories with the group. The Mitzvah Corps Civil Rights Journey was wonderful and I am so glad I was able to take part in it. I’m not quite sure exactly what I’ll do with my newfound knowledge, but I am sure that when the right time comes, I will use this knowledge in a positive way. I am excited to carry on all I’ve learned from the trip and share it with my friends and family throughout my life.